Whilst waiting for the train, I often do mental brainstorms in my mind. What if‘s that imagine various genres, styles and subjects to consider turning into tabletop games or scenarios.
Most are forgotten about once the train arrives. This week, one stuck.
A low-magic grimdark system and setting based on the Dark Ages Pictish tribes that inhabited the lands that would one day become Scotland.
The mental nodes that led to this saw me remembering how fondly I loved things like Slaine and Robin of Sherwood as a kid (not, strictly speaking of the same time period, but certainly of the same tone) and of Shawn Tomkin’s fabulously (and mostly solitary) grimdark Ironsworn.
It also saw me recall a fascination with that early period of history, marvelling at the carvings and standing stones in museums and still extant in some parts of the country. Of learning of those early peoples, the indigenous tribes of what was not yet Scotland, and of the fragments of their lives, beliefs and fates that are preserved in the writings of (mostly) those who came after them.
And so these lifelong interests and inspirations have melted into the pot of my present-day brain, and inspired me to kick off another ttrpg system and setting project — Children of The Wyrd.
Family is everything
The setting will be inspired by real history, but not be a truly accurate retelling of it.
Player characters in the game will be members of one of the several clans that inhabit a land that is geographically and topographically similar to Scotland. Each clan will have something they are renowned for (agriculture, horse-breeding, raiding, etc), and inter-clan rivalries and disputes will likely form the basis of early sources of adventure.
Every character will be human, and every character will, by definition, be a warrior: someone used to taking up arms to defend their clan, and the land that each one of them are spiritually connected to.
Clans will, at times of dire threat, band together into kin. Kin will see every able-bodied member of the society rally under the fiery brand of one leader, following their orders to defend their very existence.
In actuality, the Picts were involved in frequent clashes with the Romans. Unique amongst those they tried to subjugate, the Picts were never truly conquered by the Empire. Without defined centres to besiege, and facing foes expert in wilderness and guerrilla warfare, the invading legions were forced to admit defeat, building walls across the land to keep the pagan savages out.
Children of the Wyrd will have the same concept of an invading force, heavily inspired by but not specifically named as the Romans. A dominant and ruthless foe, seemingly endless in number. A foe hell-bent on exterminating the natives’ way of life.
A foe that will nip at the players’ heels constantly throughout their adventures.
Bonded in battle
The game will have no classes, as such. Every character will be a warrior, but each will choose a weapon to be bound with. This may be a sword, a spear, an axe or some other unique or even exotic weapon. This bond with a specific weapon will become as much a part of the character as the rest of their statistics, and their chosen path will open up dedicated skill trees that will allow them to excel at a particular weapon’s use. A swordswoman will be a very different combatant than a spearsman, whilst an axemaiden will present a threat that is very different to that of a torcwielder.
The game will be gritty, grim(dark) and visceral, and the weapon bonds are designed to reflect that.
All are created equal
As hinted at by some of the nomenclatures above, there will be no difference between the genders in Children of the Wyrd. This, as far as recorded history is able to tell us, is historically accurate. Women of the Pictish tribes were just as fierce and ruthless in combat as their male counterparts; the concept of gender and sexuality was fluid; a person’s devotion to their clan, adeptness in combat and relationship to the land was what mattered, not the accident of their biological birth.
Ways of the Wyrd
Diverging from history (perhaps …), the game will feature magic. Low magic, drawing on folklore, paganism and early ritual myth and witchcraft.
Characters will have a relationship to the land, or more specifically The Wyrd: the mystical energy that runs through it, woven in invisible threads by the Goddess.
Characters may spend time learning how to pluck these threads, through their devotion to one of the three aspects of the Goddess, the deity that created the land the tribes call home.
Devotees of the Maiden will be versed in spells, hymns and incantations that aid them in battle, whilst those who devote themselves to the Mother will be adept in wards of protection and words of healing. Those who choose the path of the Crone will be herbalists, enchanters and alchemists, using the very fabric of the land itself to their advantage.
And where there is The Wyrd, there is also The Dark. Those able to see the threads are aware that someone — or something — has begun to cut them, threatening to unravel everything. Those that can read the signs have begun to realise that this threat could be worse than anything the Invaders could bring to bear … and it is getting closer by the day.
So, not historical, but definitely based on actual Pictish/Celtic myth, echoes of which still whisper to us across the centuries.
This is our land
The clans will be wedded to the land. Some will be nomadic, travelling to wherever the Goddess leads them. Others will centre themselves around sacred sites: ancient standing stones or intersections of ley lines where The Wyrd is at its strongest. Some will live in the great swathes of forests that envelop the landscape; others will eke out an existence in the foothills of the vast mountain ranges that scar the tundra.
Even when not bound together in kin, every member of every clan will share one thing in common: they are part of the land in which they live.
And they will die to protect it.
Coming soon … (ish)
So that’s the bare bones draft of a setting.
My early thoughts are to make this one a relatively rules-light D6 system, possibly using the Year Zero engine.
My other early thoughts involve meta-elements like repelling the Invaders on a territorial map whilst attempting to maintain the Loom on which the Wyrd is woven, so who knows where this one will lead…
What I do know is that it will lead somewhere, as this one has ‘passion project’ written all over it. As I’m also working on my streampunk and modern-day horror systems & settings though, The Children of The Wyrd may have a bit of a wait before they finally see daylight.
But, by the Goddess, see it they shall…
Art by Midjourney v5.2